Sleep, Memory, and the Brain

Dan commented on the contraindications of Namenda plus Aricept. Since many of us are on the both of these agents, would you mind giving all of us more information which you obtained during the study in which you participated. We’d all appreciate it, I’m sure.   Thanks, Dan.

If you read my post the other day about my sleep deprivation for several and how it affected my brain, the following article explains in detail the reasoning behind this.

Sleep, Memory, and the Brain

When you’re sleep deprived, cognition is one of the first functions to decline. Shortchange yourself on sleep by staying up late, continue this night after night, and you ultimately shortchange your memory. And if the problem is not resolved, your memory — and your brain — will not be functioning in the best way possible.

In this excerpt from our Johns Hopkins Memory Bulletin, neurologists Marilyn Albert, Ph.D. and Guy McKann, M.D. answer questions about sleep and how it affects the brain and memory.

Q.  How much sleep does an adult need each night?

A.  As people get older, a decrease begins in both the total time sleeping and the amount of time spent in the stage of sleep associated with dreaming. A newborn sleeps 16 hours per day. In contrast, the baby’s 30-year-old mother sleeps six hours per day (if she’s lucky), and only one quarter of this time, or two hours, is occupied by the deepest stage of sleep.

Starting in middle age (between 45 and 60), not only does the amount of sleep per night start to decrease, but also the character of sleep changes. People at these ages spend less time in the stage of sleep associated with dreaming and more time in the lighter stages.

As people get older, they are more likely to shift the time when they sleep, some going to bed and to sleep earlier and waking up earlier. Others are the opposite, staying up late into the night and sleeping much of the day. When people are in their 80s, these changes are even more pronounced. Their total time asleep per day may be only six or seven hours, including time spent in daytime naps. Even though a person may take several naps a day, the total time sleeping in naps is rarely over an hour. The idea that older individuals should sleep soundly for eight to 10 hours is clearly wrong.

As a rule of thumb, one hour of sleep is required for two hours of being awake. As we get older, that ratio becomes closer to 45 minutes of sleep to each two hours awake. In other words, throughout the day you gradually accumulate a “sleep debt.” By the end of a 16-hour day, a younger person owes the “sleep bank” eight hours. In contrast, an older person has a sleep debt of only about six hours. By the end of a week, you may have accumulated a sleep debt of eight to 10 hours.

Q.  What are the effects of sleep deprivation?

A.  If you don’t allot enough time for sleep, you become sleep deprived. Besides being sleepy during the daytime, sleep-deprived people often have problems with their thinking. They are slower to learn new things, they may have problems with memory, and their ability to make judgments may be faulty, enough so that they may think they are really starting to “lose it” when the problem is really not enough sleep.

Elderly people do not recover from sleep deprivation as quickly as younger people. In experimental situations where people are kept awake for 24 hours, those in their 70s take at least a day longer to recover from their subsequent daytime sleepiness than younger people. Gender may also make a difference in the time it takes to recover from sleep deprivation; women seem to be able to recover faster than men.

True or False

Spring onions and shallots are exactly the same.

False. Shallots, or scallions, differ from other onions in that instead of having a single bulb, it divides into a cluster of smaller bulbs.

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4 Responses

  1. Caregivers complain of a lack of sleep and memory loss.

    Hope all is well with you Dr. Thomas (David)

    Imogene

  2. David,

    Straight and simple from the Official Namenda Website: The most common adverse events reported with Namenda+Aricept® (donepezil)** were confusion, dizziness and falls, flu-like symptoms and agitation. 1 and noting Lower Rate of Gastrointestinal Side Effects with combinstion.

    Confusion, dizziness w falls and agitation are 3 out of 5 of my major complaints, ie., areas of subjective distress. So when routine blood tests showed me low in thyroid and calcium 6 yrs post
    Petscan Hypofusion and middling MMPI scores, I was given synthroid+Ca, resulting in rapid and sig
    inc in cognition i stopped the Aricep with the blessings of my Neurologist, and GI docs.

    The heavy contraindications can be found online for neurostimulants like ritalin or dexadrine, with the two acetocholinesterase inhibitors raise risk of stroke.

    Having premorbid cases of OSA, Narcolepsey and severe REM Sleep Behavior Disorder … I thought it wiser to reduce risks, included stoping smoking which has turned out to be very uncomfortable.

    • Dan…..thanks for your quick response. I appreciate it. I’ll check the Namenda site and also plan to discuss this with my Dr. the next time I see him.

      David

  3. How interesting, David! Contrary to what the article says, I need about 8 hours of sleep even though I’m past 70. I’ve always been a sleepy-head, but until about 10 years ago I was OK with 6 1/2 hours; then I started to need more. And now, if I don’t sleep my 8 hours either at night or by compensating with a nap, I feel tired the whole day. I am also a night owl and never go to sleep before 11:30PM -and that’s early. Also, every morning when I wake up it seems to me that I spent most of the night dreaming; I remember different settings, like traveling or being in an old house, or with children, but not what the dreams were about. What do you make of all that, doctor Thomas?
    Another comment: ¿Cuándo me vas a escribir en español?
    A hug,
    Raquel

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